DeLAND, Fla. - Despite giving up just three hits in the contest and senior Zach Cooper tying a career best with 11 strikeouts, Central Michigan fell to No. 23 Stetson in the series opener Friday night, 4-2.
The Hatters' (4-0) four runs in the contest were all unearned thanks to three errors by the Chippewas (1-3) as the defense was unable to backup Cooper's tremendous outing. The senior, who didn't factor in the decision, gave up just two hits over seven innings of work, allowing two unearned runs and striking out the 11 batters.
Junior Patrick Kaminska replaced Cooper on the mound in the bottom of the eighth with the game tied at two and appeared to force the leadoff hitter into a groundout, but freshman Joey Houlihan bobbled the ball at third allowing Mark Jones to reach base safely. After a sac bunt and a flyout, Ben Carhart was intentionally walked and stole second, setting up the eventual game-winning hit for SU. Ryan Lashley came to the plate following the Carhart free pass and drove a pitch into left field, plating Jones and Carhart for the decisive 4-2 final.
The Chippewas were able to get a runner on base in the top of the ninth when junior Jordan Dean walked, but Stetson closer Robbie Powell struck out junior Tom Lally and senior William Arnold to end the game.
"Zach was outstanding tonight and it's unfortunate we weren't able to get the win," head coach Steve Jaksa said. "We had a few missed opportunities and the errors speak for themselves. In a tight game like this one you have to capitalize on the opportunities at hand and we weren't able to do that tonight."
CMU jumped out in front in the first frame as Lally reached on a bunt single and later advanced to third on a perfectly executed hit and run with William Arnold. Senior Nate Theunissen then came to the plate and roped a single to center field to plate Lally and give the Chippewas the lead, 1-0.
Cooper struck out two in the bottom of the first before the Hatters claimed the lead in the bottom of the second on two unearned runs. With two outs, Lally was credited with an error at third base and Cooper walked back-to-back hitters, setting up a two-RBI single by Kyle Zech.
The Chippewas responded, however, in the top of the third as Lally walked and later came around to tie the game on a wild pitch by Stetson starter Kurt Schuler.
Cooper then struck out eight batters over the next five innings, striking out the side in the third and seventh innings before going over 100 pitches and being replaced in the eighth. Through two games, Cooper has now struck out 18 batters in 13 innings and is just 22 strikeouts shy of moving into 10th on CMU's career list.
Arnold went 2-for-4 in the game, extending his hitting streak to 12, while Theunissen finished the night 1-for-4 with a RBI.
The Chippewas and Hatters will resume the series tomorrow afternoon with a doubleheader at Melching Field. Game one will begin at 2 p.m.